Hi and WELCOME to Rave Reviews Book Club’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOK & BLOG BLOCK PARTY! Location: Beem’s Blog, Lansing, Michigan. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win prizes!
Sorry, due to postal costs, my giveaways are open to those within the U.S.
Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today:
* Autographed copies of the Jazz Baby paperback.
* Handy book/tote bags with a screen print of a classic novel on both sides.
* Bookmarks, so you won’t lose your place.
**This giveaway is now closed! But we have WINNERS!!!**
*Rea Nolan Martin
Number of Winners for this stop: 5
Just what is Jazz Baby all about?
Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten is a young girl with big dreams. She has the sort of voice that convicts sinners simply through song. But Baby has bigger aspirations than singing spirituals to that Mississippi congregation on Sunday mornings during the summer of 1925. The girl yearns to sing jazz in the clubs way up in New York City. Her father is her biggest supporter, standing behind the girl every step of the way—until he passes away suddenly. Her mother, accused in the father’s demise, follows him to the grave shortly thereafter.
So what’s a poor white-trash orphan girl supposed to do to answer the call of her dreams? Her strict, Bible-believing Aunt Francine has ideas of her own for this tiny girl with the big voice. She brokers a marriage between Emily and Jobie Pritchett, the preacher’s son.
Emily Ann is a composite of several girls I’ve known over the years. There is a psychological element to this character that comes from reality, as harsh and dark as that might seem to some readers. She demanded to be written into existence. I could hear her voice, with that Mississippi lilt, calling out to me from the ether, arguing that it’s her time, so pick up that pen, author man, and get to writing.
What Jazz Baby is meant to be is a trip into the year 1925; a shared summer with one young girl trying to find her way in life, in the world of her day. I spent untold hours in researching the era and that region of the country, and human behavior in general. The thing about human behavior is, it doesn’t change, no matter the era in which we live. Stories from that era, told to me by my own grandfather, seem to suggest that the young people from the 1920s sought out the same things young people from the 2010s search after.
These weren’t asexual, sober, boring people back then. Not at all. The stories I heard, either directly or through eavesdropping, told tales of young and vibrant lives, of men and women on the prowl for good times, cheap booze, and dirty sex. Not at all different from today. (Google “vintage porn” and see how many nudie pics from the 1920s pop up.) The thing is, today we see our grandparents (mine are long dead) as old people who spend a lot of time in church, doing good and Godly things. But they were young once. Young, and quite different from who they are today. Humans grow older, we mature, we change. It’s part of the life experience.
I found it interesting that opium was a popular recreational drug in use during that era. Marijuana grew wild in parts of the country, going unmolested by the local authorities, many of whom would consider it silly to dedicate time, money, and effort in trying to eradicate a weed. The young people of the 1920s, the partiers, were the very ones partaking of these forbidden fruits.
One reviewer referred to the characters in Jazz Baby as “Blue Velvet-type characters.” I like that comparison, though that movie never once crossed my mind as I wrote the book. These are indeed a collection of strange and bizarre types. I’ve always loved stories that break from the normal novel template. Good, quirky characters are a blast to create. The idea for the character called “Pig” came from a documentary film on 1920s movie star Fatty Arbuckle. He’d watched his career ruined through a sexual scandal that had no basis in truth. But in Jazz Baby, this character truly is scandalous. He really has those “unnatural” appetites.
Even Emily Ann has a bit of the quirky in her. She’s fearless, reckless, and foolish, the way she traipses around the streets of New Orleans, running through the red-light district once known as Storyville, where she considers an invitation to allow her virginity to be auctioned to the highest bidder in a Storyville whorehouse. She’s a fan of bootleg whiskey, opium, and cigarettes, and she hasn’t a care in the world. Sexuality awakens in the girl, has her pondering the things that can take place between a boy and a girl–or between two girls. Is she bi-sexual? Labels mean nothing to Emily. And neither does race, as she spends much of her time in the company of “colored” jazz musicians, sharing intimacy with a certain piano player.
But the streets are quite dangerous for a young girl of Emily’s size and age. Not everyone she meets has her best interests at heart. This is where that reckless side could cost her more than she’s able afford. Dark characters have their own ideas for this girl, how best to profit from her talents–even her father’s best friend proffers his own schemes.
It took me upwards near ten years to complete this novel, with all the rewrites, the research, and a two-year abandonment. It is available at Amazon http://www.tinyurl.com/bbj4my7 as a paperback or an ebook for Kindle.